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Battle Ignorance, Not Each Other

January 14, 2011

James Baraz of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, has posted a wonderful essay over at Huffington Post in response to the Tucson shootings.

“The real villain is in this story is not Jared Loughner. It’s not the media. And it’s not the gun rights advocates. The real villain is ignorance. Because of ignorance, people project their fear and turn those who are different into enemies — both in their minds and in actuality. This is the history of war, as Sam Keen brilliantly pointed out in Faces of the Enemy. Once you demonize the “other” they become less than human and you can inflict pain on them without guilt or shame.”

Demonizing or dehumanizing the other in order to do violence, is also the premise of Pema Chodron’s teaching in Practicing Peace.

Baraz goes on to say this about guns: “The NRA is stronger than ever. And the cowboy mindset in this country, from our military budget to Second Amendment advocates, is still entrenched in our psyche. The response of two congressmen to the Arizona tragedy was to announce that they would be carrying guns from now on. Not exactly good modeling for non-violence.”


Bill Badger and Patricia Maisch with raised hands. Photo courtesy of ABC Channel 15 KNXV of Arizona.

It was not a gun that stopped Loughner’s shooting spree.  It was two unarmed men and a woman.  Bill Badger (bleeding from a graze) and Roger Salzgeber tackled Loughner while Patricia Maisch wrestled a magazine he was trying to reload away from him.  They didn’t shoot him or beat him.  They just held him down until authorities arrived.  They are heroes.  They did not compound tragedy with more death despite how many might howl for it and call it ‘justice.’  They were willing to do what had to be done, but only that.

I submit that these folks are the cowboys and cowgirls in this situation, not folks like Loughner or the two newly gun-totting Arizona congressmen.  Hollywood got it wrong.  Carrying a gun is easy.  Pulling the trigger is easy.  Violence is easy.  Stopping the “descending spiral” from “begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” now that’s hard.  Hooray for people who can still do it!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    January 15, 2011 8:47 pm

    No amount of non-violence will stop the crazies from killing people. Loughner was indeed stopped by unarmed people–after he had fired thirty rounds. He might have been stopped at twenty-nine or less if somebody else had also had a gun. Absorbing the bad guy’s bullets until he runs out makes for a poor defensive strategy.

    • January 15, 2011 10:18 pm

      The point wasn’t about the efficacy of how the shooter was stopped, but the bravery of the people who stopped him. Guns don’t make one brave, as Yoda might say.

      • John permalink
        January 15, 2011 11:33 pm

        Baraz says “they did not compound tragedy with more death.” He sounds like he is glad that nobody shot Loughner in the middle of his rampage. Baraz is a pacifist, and he wrongly implies that the heroes in this story are pacifists too. They were unarmed, but if those three could choose between Loughner dying after killing five people or being wrestled to the ground after killing six I believe with all my heart that they would choose the former.

  2. January 18, 2011 10:31 am

    Monica I agree with you. That they didn’t stop him sooner was shock response, not allowing others to absorb his bullet’s John. When the human mind see’s something horrific, shock to some degree or another sets in. It’s a medical fact. At least for a fairly healthy mind. That these two men and one woman were able to summon the presence of mind to stop him when they did, without extra force or violence speaks to the enduring beauty of the human soul.

    “The river tells no lies, standing on it’s shores the dishonest man still hears them.”

  3. January 20, 2011 6:56 pm

    Myth of the Hero Gunslinger by Timothy Egan in The New York Times

    “It defies logic, as this case shows once again, that an average citizen with a gun is going to disarm a crazed killer. For one thing, these kinds of shootings happen far too suddenly for even the quickest marksman to get a draw. For another, your typical gun hobbyist lacks training in how to react in a violent scrum.

    “At least two recent studies show that more guns equals more carnage to innocents. One survey by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that guns did not protect those who had them from being shot in an assault — just the opposite. Epidemiologists at Penn looked at hundreds of muggings and assaults. What they found was that those with guns were four times more likely to be shot when confronted by an armed assailant than those without guns. The unarmed person, in other words, is safer.

    “Other studies have found that states with the highest rates of gun ownership have much greater gun death rates than those where only a small percentage of the population is armed. So, Hawaii, where only 9.7 percent of residents own guns, has the lowest gun death rate in the country, while Louisiana, where 45 percent of the public is armed, has the highest.

    “Arizona, where people can carry guns into bars and almost anyone can get a concealed weapons permit, is one of the top 10 states for gun ownership and death rates by firearms. And in the wake of the shootings, some lawmakers want to flood public areas with even more lethal weapons.”

    Read the entire column –

    • John permalink
      January 21, 2011 10:07 pm

      I am surprised that there was no armed guard at the Tucson congresswoman’s event. They could have at least had a Rent-A-Cop on hand. Certainly any kind of professional guard would be better than the “average citizen with a gun.” But, oddly enough, an average citizen with a gun killed a would-be robber at one of my company’s stores here in town just this year. The bad guy had a sawed-off shotgun and was robbing a woman at one of our ATMs. This average citizen saw what was happening, drew his (legally) concealed handgun and shot the bad guy. Said bad guy staggered to the door and died just outside. Very rare event. Very good citizen.

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